Frida Kahlo is perhaps one of the best women artists in history. I’ve always loved her work and also the story of her difficult life. I only recently found out that many of her works are inspired by ‘Exvotos’ which are a fascinating creation in themselves.

Prior to the 20th century Mexicans had a religious tradition in which they commissioned artists to paint small artworks when their prayers for a miracle were answered. The artworks were usually quite small and painted on panels of wood, canvas and tin, and hung in the local church as a testimony of their faith and thankfulness for the miracle.


Whilst it’s believed that the tradition of exvotos started in Italy during the 15th century, they have become particularly stylistic of Mexican art. I really love the way that all the exvoto paintings follow a formula; each painting tells a visual story which consists of three main elements; the depiction of the event, the saint which is normally depicted floating or surrounded by clouds and the narrative written out towards the bottom of the painting.

The styles range from highly polished realistic depictions to naive styled illustrations. The subjects are usually depicted at home or in a hospital and are quite dramatic in the depiction of the illness.

There is certain quality about them that reminds me of illuminated manuscripts; it could be the combination of image and text, the intense colours and religious themes.

The National Library of Medicine features a gallery and also more in depth info if you want to find out more.